Growing up in NY, Labor Day for me was a Caribbean Day Festival. Every year, my family and I would go to Eastern Parkway and dance, eat and walk the event. Now that I live in Atlanta, Labor Day has turned into LudaDay Weekend. So what is Labor Day really? Why do we get Monday off?
This question is common on Google, so I’m not alone. The first definition that popped up was:
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” (Source: https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history)
As a recipient of an Economics Degree I should know this definition like the back of my hand, but for some reason, I never heard this explained before. Was I out sick when we learned this in school? My parents, sure enough, didn’t explain it this way.
“It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.” (Source: www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day)
Labor Day is responsible for the 8-hour work day and weekend rest!
“Labor Day has its origins in the labor union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Did you know that women started the first strike toward the labor movement?
“In the textile town of Lowell, Massachusetts, for example, “mill girls” started work as pre teens and toiled for 13-hour days, according to an AFL-CIO history. In 1834, these mill girls became some of the first successful strikers in U.S. history, when they protested wage cuts by refusing the work. That strike failed, as did a subsequent one in 1836, but the mill girls turned to politics to meet their goals. They organized the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association and, in an era when women didn’t even yet have the right to vote, managed to get the New Hampshire Legislature to pass a law capping the workday at 10 hours.” (Source: https://www.livescience.com/32508-why-is-it-called-labor-day.html)
Ironically, women still earn 77 cents for every 1$ that men earn. There is still a lot of work to be done. Not to rain on your Labor Day parade, we should not be content until we all earn the same wages as men. I can’t believe I have to say that in 2017 when the first signs towards this movement were in 1834.
Here is a way to become involved with helping to create fair wages, Visit National Women’s Law Center and fill out the data form for Equal Pay Collection. You can find the form here.